House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan on Tuesday, ending weeks of wrangling between the United States and China about whether she should make the trip. Beijing has strongly protested Pelosi’s Taiwan visit and issued lurid warnings of a stern Chinese response.
Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan is part of a congressional trip to four Asian countries. The U.S. has assured Beijing that she will travel freely and securely and is working to reduce the possibility of misinterpretations of U.S. intentions.
Pelosi said earlier this month that the Pentagon had hinted her plane “would get shot down” if her visit went ahead. The Chinese government has pushed back on long-established standards of U.S. engagement with the self-governing island.
The Chinese Communist Party considers “reunification with Taiwan” a “historical task”. It has ramped up pressure on the island since the 2016 election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.
Beijing backed its criticism of Pelosi’s travel plans with “live fire exercises” on Saturday off the coast of Fujian opposite Taiwan. The PLA is expected to flex some muscle in the Taiwan Strait, however, to project power over Taiwan without risking military confrontation.
The Chinese government’s suspicions of U.S. policy toward Taiwan will be fuelled by the Pelosi visit and may prompt a longer-term intensification of military intimidation of the island.
What is China’s claim to Taiwan?
Taiwan was first settled by Austronesian tribal people, and was later administered by the Dutch. After World War Two, Japan surrendered and relinquished control of territory it had taken from China, and Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan with his Kuomintang government.
In the 1980s, China offered Taiwan significant autonomy in exchange for accepting Chinese reunification, but Taiwan rejected the offer and relaxed rules on visits to and investment in China.
Taiwan’s leaders argue that Taiwan is a sovereign state with its own constitution and armed forces, but the KMT government is pushing for eventual reunification.
The People’s Republic of China took over most of the territory of the Republic of China in 1949, and the Republic of China withdrew from the UN in 1971.
The term “Taiwan Province” is potentially ambiguous since the ROC refers to its Taiwan Province as “Taiwan Province, Republic of China” and the PRC refers to its Taiwan Province as “Taiwan Province, People’s Republic of China.”
“Taiwan, China” is often used in Chinese media whenever the word “Taiwan” is mentioned. Still, the PRC prefers the terms “Taiwan Area” and “Taipei, China” for political references. Taiwan’s name is a legal dispute between the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland and the Republic of China. The Supreme Court of China has ruled that Taiwan’s name should be Taiwan.